Proper car maintenance is a very serious, yet often overlooked, issue on all roadways. In fact, research by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 20% of all accidents are caused in some way to poor car maintenance or lack of maintenance. This article will discuss one of the causes of car accidents in our state – poor vehicle maintenance – including how it causes accidents, what happens when poor maintenance causes a crash, who can be held liable, how we can help prevent these accidents, and more. 

If you or a loved one has been hurt in a car accident or have any questions about the personal injury claims process, our South Carolina car accident lawyers are here to help. Cavanaugh & Thickens, LLC is currently accepting new clients – for a free case evaluation directly with a reputable lawyer, please call (803) 888-2200. For your convenience, we also have offices in Columbia and Charleston, and we work with clients across the Palmetto state.

How Can a Lack of Car Maintenance Cause Collisions?

A lack of proper vehicle maintenance is a relatively common cause of car accidents. When a car is not properly maintained, essential parts of the vehicle can malfunction or fail altogether. When this happens on the road, it can cause serious and unexpected wrecks.

Common Vehicle Issues Leading to Car Accidents

There are a few common vehicle parts that may lead to serious car accidents if not upkept properly. These parts can include but are not limited to issues with:


According to a study reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), tire failure and degradation/wheel failure was identified in about 43% of car crashes. 

Tire issues leading to accidents can include over-inflated tires, under-inflated tires, vehicle weight overload, punctured or leaking tires, worn down tires, tire valve stem damage, and more. Keeping tires in good condition is imperative to maintaining good road grip, support, and proper stopping distances. 

Braking System

According to the same NHTSA study, brake failure/degradation is the second most common vehicle attribution to crashes, a contributing factor in 25% of accidents.  

There are many signs that brakes may need to be serviced, such as burning smells, brake warning lights, grinding noises, squeaking noises, vibrating steering wheel, and more. The primary function of brakes is to safely and reliably slow down or stop your vehicle. If your brakes are not serviced in a timely fashion and they fail, drivers are putting themselves and others on the road at great risk.


It’s important that all lights on your vehicle are working properly, such as turn signals, brake lights, running lights, headlights, low and high beams, hazard lights, and more. Lights are critical for helping drivers see and communicate with other drivers on the road. 

Steering System

Steering system issues can arise when steering fluid is leaking, the pump is damaged, there’s low steering fluid, electrical power steering issues, and more. The steering system controls turning and directional stability, and absorbs road shock to prevent it from hitting drivers’ hands. 


A car’s battery provides the power needed to start the vehicle. When a car’s battery is weak or dead, the car may become very difficult to start. In addition, when battery issues are combined with alternator problems, a car can break down while driving. This can be extremely dangerous for those in the vehicle and on the road around them, possibly leading to pileup accidents.

Car dashboard displaying multiple warning signals.

Tips for Keeping Yourself and Others on the Road Safe

In 1995, South Carolina eliminated annual, required vehicle inspections. Today, the Palmetto state consistently ranks amongst the states with the most car crashes resulting in fatalities. 

One of the ways you can keep yourself and others on the road safe is by keeping an eye on your vehicle, looking out for any warning signs that something is wrong with your vehicle, and getting regular, preventative maintenance. 

At the very least, all South Carolina drivers should have their car(s) inspected annually or bi-annually by a qualified mechanic. 

In addition, drivers should:

  • Visually inspect their vehicles, especially tires and lights
  • Replace tires as needed or as recommended by a technician
  • Follow the vehicle’s recommended maintenance schedule
  • Look out for warning signs, such as warning lights on the dashboard, new smells, sounds, shaking or vibrating, moving towards one side, and more.

If you experience any of these changes or similar situations, you should promptly bring your car in for professional testing and repairs. Regular vehicle maintenance can be a critical decision for yourself and others.

How Liability Works in SC Car Accidents Caused by Poorly Maintained Vehicles

There are a few parties who may be at-fault for an accident caused by a poorly maintained car. Due to the multiple parties that may be involved, it’s in your best interest to discuss your specific situation with a car accident lawyer to understand your rights.

Here are two examples of the parties that may be found partially or fully liable for the accident –

  • The Owner of the Vehicle – Vehicle owners are expected to ensure their vehicle is safe to drive on the road in South Carolina. When they fail to do so, they may be held liable for the accident and resulting damages.
  • Mechanics – Mechanics and auto repair shops may be found liable if they acted negligently in repairing or diagnosing something wrong with the vehicle.  

Proving Liability in South Carolina Car Accidents Caused by Poor Maintenance

If you were injured in South Carolina due to a poorly maintained vehicle, it’s in your best interest to speak with a reputable car accident lawyer, as proving negligence and liability in these cases can be tricky on your own. 

In order to hold someone liable for an accident, thus responsible for compensating you for your injuries and damages, you must prove:

  1. The at-fault party owed you a duty of care
  2. The at-fault party violated that duty of care
  3. The at-fault party’s actions/violation directly caused or contributed to your injuries/damages

In South Carolina, all drivers owe those around them a duty of care. For example, when driving, you are expected to follow the rules of the road, such as speed limits, and ensure that your car is safe to drive. When a driver fails to do so, they can be found partially or fully at-fault for the accident.

On the other hand, if you are attempting to hold a negligent mechanic or repair shop liable, you must prove that the mechanic acted negligently, which directly caused the accident and resulting injuries. While mechanics and car repair shop owners owe a duty of care to their clients and the motoring public, it can be very difficult to prove that they acted negligently without an experienced lawyer on your side. 

How Cavanaugh & Thickens, LLC Can Help

If you’ve been hurt by an accident involving a poorly maintained vehicle, the professional South Carolina car accident lawyers at Cavanaugh & Thickens, LLC have the experience and resources needed to get you the entirety of what you’re owed. There are many ways our car accident attorneys can help optimize your car accident claim, including but not limited to:

  • Subpoenaing records of the at-fault party’s car maintenance, inspections, and repairs
  • Proving liability by demonstrating evidence of all three elements of negligence 
  • Obtaining and reviewing photos, videos, witness testimony, and more
  • Uncovering additional available evidence such as black box data and security footage
  • Identifying all damages related to the accident such as past, current, and future damages
  • Valuing your case based on experience, specifics of the accident, medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, emotional damages, and all other damages
  • Collecting expert testimony as needed, and more

Get a Free Case Evaluation Today

If you or someone you know has been hurt in a car accident caused by a poorly maintained vehicle, we’re here to help. With over 60 years of combined experience representing car accident victims and cases throughout the state, you can trust that you’ll be in great hands with our team.

At Cavanaugh & Thickens, LLC, we offer complimentary case consultations directly with a reputable car accident attorney. To speak with a lawyer today, simply call our team at (803) 888-2200, email, or complete our secure online form.

About the Author – Joseph O. Thickens

I’m Joe Thickens, and I’m a founder and personal injury attorney at Cavanaugh & Thickens, LLC. I primarily represent people who have been injured in car and truck accidents in Columbia and throughout the state. Our entire team is dedicated to getting accident victims the justice they deserve, including making sure they get compensated for all of the physical, financial, and emotional pain they’ve had to face as a result of an unexpected accident.

If you or a loved one has any questions following an accident, we’d be glad to help you understand your options under state law. We take great pride in our work and prioritize a great client experience. If you’d like more information, please contact our office. We are available for you via phone 24/7.